There are only 40 minutes of playing time in a college basketball game, but many hours go into making a midwinter Saturday night contest the festive highlight of the week on campuses all around the country. Though they have been practicing their numbers for months, cheerleaders and bandsmen (top right) still arrive at the arena early for a final tune-up. And the students, who at many schools occupy the cheap seats on a first-come, first-served basis, often begin lining up outside the night before the crucial conference games, which occur almost weekly at this time of the season. When the doors finally swing open an hour before the tip-off, the early birds are rewarded with a head start in the race toward getting the best seats to watch another enactment of America's favorite winter sports spectacle.
Big-time basketball is a mix of uproarious excitement and quiet reflection. Pregame introductions are not complete without leaping cheerleaders, boisterous applause and, at Kansas, the Jayhawk looking on. And no big win is clinched until the victors cut down the nets. Deep thinking by the coaches at halftime may lead to triumph, but it is the losers who do the pondering once time has run out.
A sure way to tell the winners is the crowd of sportswriters around the star of the game.